Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

I am embarrassed to say that I do not recall where I found this post or if someone sent it to me, one of my resolutions will be to try and make sure that when I save something like this to make sure that I write down all the details, especially if someone was kind enough to send it along to me because they knew it would resonate for me.

So with that mia culpa, I still want to share it, as there may be some who read this blog who had not yet seen it, and based on the feedback I have had from those who do read my posts I am guessing they would be as moved as I was.

What follows was written at the end of 2001, and even six years later, can't be ignored:
"So what does life expect of you in 2002? Better yet, what do you expect of yourself? Well, here’s the defining truth of 2002: we are all being held to a higher standard. The age of indulgence ended on September 11. It’s been replaced by the age of accountability. The most valuable people will be those who consistently enhance the people and the world around them.

So here are ten of the best New Year’s Resolutions you can make. They are based on The Ten Personal Best Practices formulated by Environics/Lipkin, the specialist Motivation Company in the Environics Research Group. These are the personal strategies and actions designed to achieve maximum impact in a topsy-turvy world:

1. Resolve to stay brutally optimistic. See the opportunity in every difficulty. Anticipate the most favorable outcome out of every situation. Whatever you look for, that’s what you’ll find. We can get better or we can get bitter. It all depends on the lessons we draw from each experience. Optimism is like electricity – very little happens without it. Know this truth: you have all the resources you’ll ever need to handle all the challenges you’ll ever have. It’s in the true emergencies that the true you emerges.

2. Resolve to identify the most powerful benefit you offer to the people around you and then deliver it. “The purpose of life” said George Bernard Shaw, “is a life of purpose”. What’s yours? Where are you investing your personal energy – on self-preservation or adding value to others. Here’s the well-being paradox: if you’re only concerned about yourself, you cannot take care of yourself. Only by helping others, can you succeed. This is not the creed of the Good Samaritan. It’s the primary source of motivation that sustains the Go-To people in tough times.

3. Resolve to pump up your Personal Vitality. In the game of life it’s not about who’s right, it’s about who’s left. Over 60 percent of us are over 36 years old. The real currency of the 2000’s is not cash, it’s vitality. It’s the ability to keep going 24/7/365 with vigor and verve. All you are to the people around you is a source of energy. And you cannot give what you don’t have. Ninety percent of all adults do no physical exercise at all. More than half of us is overweight. A third of us still smoke. So this year, resolve to enhance your physical, emotional and mental vitality. Take just a small step. First you’ll amaze yourself and then you’ll amaze everybody else.

4. Resolve to be Habitually Generous. Success is not something you pursue. It’s something you attract by what you become. The more you give of yourself, the more favors you attract from others. It’s called The Law of Reciprocity. People have a deep-rooted drive to give back. So resolve to proactively search for ways to contribute to others. Live above the line. If the line represents others’ expectations of you, consistently exceed those expectations. You’ll develop what Ken Blanchard calls “Raving Fans”, people who become walking billboards for you, your product and your service.

5. Resolve to go on a mental diet. Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can scar you for life. It’s humans, not elephants, who never forget. So resolve to use the language of Conciliation, not the language of Confrontation. Avoid the temptation to vent your negativity on others. Instead, use words that express your joie de vivre and connection with others.

6. Resolve to be a Global Citizen, fully open to the cultures and influences of others. There is a direct correlation between personal well-being and openness to other peoples’ ideas and cultures. If someone has a different point of view to you, they’re probably right as well. There are no absolutes anymore. No one has a patent on right and wrong. So welcome different opinions. Become a one-person champion for plurality. Not only will you make lots of new friends, but you’ll also gather multiple reference points to help you resolve personal challenges.

7. Resolve to take Control of Your Destiny. Don’t be so busy trying to make a living that you forget to make a life. You’re in charge of your own life, so take charge. Decide who you want to be and what you want to achieve. And then stride boldly towards your vision. The most precious human commodity today is Confidence. Confidence and Control of Destiny are Siamese Twins.

8. Resolve to increase your human connectivity. The person with the best connections wins. The wider your network, the more opportunities you generate. It’s all about trust. And it’s all about profile – your presence in the minds of the people who matter. So invest at least ten percent of your time broadening your sphere of influence. Connect other people to opportunities within your network – cross pollinate their potential. When you are with others, make every encounter a pleasurable one. When you listen, truly listen. And burn your fear of rejection.

9. Resolve to increase your creativity by letting go of the familiar. Nothing is as far away as yesterday. As Salman Rushdie writes, every year is the Stone Age to the year that follows it. See the world through fresh eyes everyday. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. So be ready. Listen to your intuition and follow your instincts, they’ll tell you what to do before your head has had a chance to figure it out. You are a Picasso or Einstein at something. Discover what it is and then develop it to the maximum.

10. Resolve to be you because others are already taken. You and I are at our best when we’re being authentic. We’re at our best when we’re being positively spontaneous because that’s when all our energy is being invested in the person in front of us or the task at hand. In a hyper-competitive world, we cannot afford to second-guess ourselves. Success in the new, new age is all about speed. So act now, because if not now, when?

So there you have it, ten New Year Resolutions to improve your life in 2002. So decide. Fight the Good Fight, stay the course, and keep the faith."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Be Remembered and Be Referred

As we all know, blogs continue to multiply in geometric fashion. I don't know about the rest of the world, but it is all I can do to follow a few. The general criteria I use is probably not unlike how most people make choices about what they read:

1) the subject matter is of interest,and

2) the writing is stimulating and "interesting" to read. In other posts over the past several months, I have noted some of those that happen to appeal to me.

One that I have bookmarked in recent times is Amitai Givertz's blog which he calls Amitai Givertz's Recruitomatic Blog.

I have no clue where he found Rob Robinson's resume, but I'm glad he did.

When it comes to proactive career management, at ExecuNet we talk a fair amount about "being remembered and being referred." Most of us try to accomplish this goal by doing a whole host of things including making sure that our resume makes us stand out from crowd.

Amitai thinks the Mr. Robinson's resume is "One Hell of a Resume" and while I am sure that there are those who might or might not agree, it is definitely different and, especially since Robinson is a "marketing guy" I would be very surprised if it didn't resonate with a number of folks.

Check it out. Would this make you want to pick up the phone?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Networking & Root Canals

Maybe I'm just crazy or am missing something along the way (which if you asked my wife she would say "what do you mean 'maybe'?) but even after roaming around the career management space for all these years, I still hear people (i.e. most) who are interested in making a change say they plan to "work with a recruiter" or use a job board and these are the major strategies that are going to get them to their career goals.

And I hear it so much that I wonder how the heck it is that most of us got to where we are. Indeed, when I'm talking to members about stuff like this, especially when they are lamenting over the fact that they answer ads and never hear anything, or call recruiters and get no call backs, or generally don't understand why the world is not beating a path to their door, I often will ask them "tell me something, how did you get the job you have now or jobs that you have had in the past?" I haven't kept score over the years, but my finger in the wind survey tells me that probably at least 75% of the time, the answer comes back "oh, I got it through networking."

As I said, I don't keep score when I'm on the phone or just talking with someone at a meeting, but we do keep score when we hear from members when they come back and tell us they have made a change, and have been keeping score for several years. Interestingly enough, the number turns out to be 70%, and interestingly enough, that number doesn't seem to change very much no matter what the economy is at the time.

All that being said, we still can't deny that we live in an instant gratification society, and the more technology advances, one that on many levels becomes even less and less personal and requires more investment in hardware and software than in building real relationships.

This is in no way intended to be a rant against the "social networking space" indeed, there is no question that technology has made electronic networking easy and in many cases very productive on many levels.

Should be interesting as we follow the continuing evolution of "social networking" to see if and when it becomes the 21st century's version of "personal networking" as in people's willingness to put their personal reputations on the line.

Am I just splitting hairs, or is there a difference between "social" and "personal"?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Grace Under Pressure

Grace Under Pressure was the title of an Op Ed piece by Peggy Noonan that appeared in the weekend edition of the Journal on December 2nd.

Yes, that Peggy Noonan, you’ll remember her memorable words typically uttered by Ronald Reagan and later for the first George Bush campaign in ’88.

If you haven't read it, I commend it to your attention, but not because I have decided to shift the focus of these commentaries from the human capital management space to the political arena (heaven help me!) Point being, that just because Ms. Noonan is the author, don't be concerned that the piece is written to sway you to a particular point of view. In actuality, I found it to be a pretty profound commentary on relationships be they inside or outside of the business world and as such, it had some pretty powerful "learnings" that any of us as managers of people and/or an enterprise would do well to reflect upon.

When things are not going well, it creates, as we all know, high levels of stress. The stress is born of many factors not the least of which is fear of failure. As we all know when that happens, human nature is to become defensive, and one of the first outcomes of falling into defensive mode is to "open mouth, insert foot, close mouth and chew." We've all been there.

One of the key points that Peggy makes in this piece was the degree to which she feels the impact of interviews and so called discussions as they are heard or seen as they air on radio and/or TV. Specifically she talks about not only the physical volume levels of people's voices, but more importantly the degree to which people interrupt one another before thoughts are completed and as important, the 'tone' of superiority and judgement the interruptions take.

I wonder how many of us recall the communications exercises from Management Skills 101 in which we were taught to not only listen to what the other person had to say, but before we were allowed to express our counter-argument (which we knew and had composed in our heads well before they had spoken 10 words and we were sure would blow away anything they might have to say that might, by some miracle, approach something that could be viewed as a legitimate point) we had to reflect back to them what they had said and we were not allowed to state our point of view until they confirmed to us that "yes, that is what I said, and you know understand what I was trying to say.

I don't know about you, but when I have done this, what I discovered was that by the time the other person gave me the go ahead to state my position, I realized that what I thought were opinions separated by light years were, in fact, much closer to my colleague's point of view than I thought.

Of course, the self-discipline that it takes to stop me from saying things like "I hear you but...," or "let me tell you about...," or "wait a minute, I think you are missing the point," etc., for most of us takes the patience of a saint.

They also say that one of the key skills needed by successful executives are communications skills. I would argue, and I think this is part of what Peggy was saying too, is that maybe we ought to put more emphasis on the skill it takes to LISTEN versus TALKING.

It if takes the patience of a saint, then I guess we're also saying that it takes a fair amount of courage because you feel forced to go against every instinct you have to defend yourself. If I don't defend, won't I lose?

To keep from immediately traveling down that road is not an easy behavior to acquire. In other words, it does, as Peggy has noted take "grace under pressure." Apparently Hemingway agreed with her when he said "Courage is grace under pressure."

Monday, December 04, 2006

The NCO Creed and Servant-Leadership

I have mentioned Kent Blumberg's blog here on other occasions, and as long as he continues focus on issues of leadership and the importance thereof, I guess I will likely be trying to bang his drum again from time to time.

Over time, Kent has embraced the concept of "servant leadership." Can't say I blame him. If the term is new to you, you can certainly read Kent's post on the topic, but as he put it most recently, "a servant-leader is a steward of the resources under his care, and seeks to serve those he leads while still getting bottom-line business results."

Kent also pointed out that he added to his knowledge on the subject after having ready and being impressed (and rightly so) after reading a post by Bill Waddell which made the argument that NCO's in the army were, in fact, servant-leaders and suggested that people check out the NCO Creed to further underscore his point.

After reading the creed, Kent pulled out some key phrases which if you were to ignore the references to the military would indeed be a pretty darn good starter set for any manager anywhere. Here are the one's that Kent selected:

"I will not use my grade or position to attain pleasure, profit, or personal safety."

"Competence is my watchword."

"My two basic responsibilities will always be uppermost in my mind -- accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my soldiers."

"All soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership; I will provide that leadership."

"I know my soldiers and I will always place their needs above my own."

"I will communicate consistently with my soldiers and never leave them uninformed."

"I will be fair and impartial when recommending both rewards and punishment."

"I will not compromise my integrity, nor my moral courage."

It should not come as a big time surprise to anyone that when it comes to the topic of leadership that there is much for us to learn from the military. Talk about an organization where leadership is the do all and end all when it comes to crunch time. Indeed, for those who follow the subject closely, they would tell you that some of the most comprehensive studies on leadership have been fostered by the military, especially when it comes to the chicken and egg debate of whether leaders come by nature or nurture.

In a former life I did some consulting, and there was a program that had been developed by The Center for Creative Leadership in conjunction the the Navy called Looking Glass. CCL still uses it. I thought it was the best and most powerful management simulation program to which I had ever been exposed.

If you or your organization is looking for a program to help you really understand and "reflect on" (no pun intended) your leadership style as well as the leadership culture of your organization, you might want to check it out.